When disaster strikes, our resilience is rebuilt with helping hands

When disaster strikes, we reach out to restore life

By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

Eleven years ago, my beautiful house flooded. I lived in Binghamton, New York at the time and had just moved into my house one year before. It was just a block from the Susquehanna River and when my daughter-in-law visited, she insisted, absolutely insisted that I buy flood insurance. She is from Baton Rouge and is was well acquainted with floods. I acquiesced mainly to get her off my back. Furthermore, the insurance was only $300.

On the day of the flood I was at my church helping with the free dinner that we provided every Wednesday. Feeding 100 needy people was a heart-breaking experience on one hand but on the other was so fulfilling to see these dear folks leave happy.

During my whole life, I have paused before a meal to say grace. But it now felt somewhat shallow and artificial because never in my life have I been hungry because I could not afford a meal. My few times of hunger have totally been self-imposed.

It was at that community dinner where I met Brittany, a 13-year-old girl with her hair flowing down her face. We became friends and had many shopping sprees at Walmart. I was so grateful that I was able to provide her with clothes, toiletries and gifts for her family. She later joined the church and when her son was born, he was baptized there. She was such a gift to me: a young woman to guide through tough times.

My pastor was at the community meal the night of the flood and he, knowing where I lived, insisted that I leave immediately to avoid the streets that were already flooding. It was not until I had to drive through a foot of water that I realized the flood was truly serious and that my house was in danger.

Like thousands of people all along the river both in New York in Pennsylvania, the message by the police on my phone was that I had to leave immediately, take medicines and pets and go to the college gym. I later learned that there were hundreds of people lined up on cots at the gym and the pets had to stay in the car.

Fortunately, I called my friend Anita before I left and she insisted that I come to her house. For three days we were glued to her TV trying to spot my house. We could not see it but, in four days, we were allowed into the house. At first, I scheduled a flood-response company to come the next day and pump out my basement. The cost would be $1,000 dollars. But, before they arrived, my neighbor, Jim, came with a pump that his church had just purchased to pump out basements for free. I just bowed my head in gratitude.

I later realized how this was just the beginning of people surrounding me with love and concrete ways to help. Friends and relatives poured in to help clean up from the flood and restore my home.

My basement at the time had two feet of sewer water. Laundry and books were floating. Hammock and art supplies were floating. At that moment, I did not care about losing furniture, books or carpets: They could all be replaced. But, I feared that my thirteen photo albums were destroyed and could not ever, ever be replaced. In tears, I asked Jim to look for them. He had only a flashlight and could find just ten. I begged him to continue the search. I simply could not bear the idea of losing any of the albums. He kept looking and finally found all thirteen!

I then carried the sewer-soaked albums to my back deck.  I started to take the muddy photographs out of the albums, wipe them with a paper towel and set them on the deck to dry. It was a sunny day and I believed they could be spared. It was at that moment that my pastor, Steve, came by and declared that the photos should all be taken to the church, and that people there would wipe them off and dry them.

What a relief! Perhaps, perhaps my precious photos would be saved!

For two weeks I was mired in the clean-up of my house.Friends poured in to help. They knew I could never face the devastation on my own. Everything on my first floor had to either be thrown out or saved in some way. Sofas, of course, could not be saved but tables and chairs could be if thoroughly washed with bleach water. We wore masks to protect our lungs, but masks only helped somewhat. I, like many others, developed a cough that clearly stemmed from the foul air and sewer water.

For a week, I essentially forgot about the photos and focused on giving reports to the insurance company. I thanked my daughter-in-law profusely for insisting that I get flood insurance. Because of it, I actually received more money than I spent on rebuilding my house. My brother and his wife from Canada were central in this.

I learned later that my friends at my church had worked several evenings to save my photographs.  They took each one out of the plastic. They carefully wiped each photograph with a paper towel and set it on tables to dry. This took several evenings. Then one of my friends bought new photo albums and they placed all of the pictures in those albums.

At the coffee hour, that third Sunday after the flood, they presented me with the albums. I cried, they cried. I went home and slowly looked through all of those photos. Some I had forgotten.

As I was writing my memoir, Light Shines in the Darkness, pouring over my photos—photos of my entire life—helped me heal in a profound way. It helped me let go of some of the pain of divorce and showed me that my life as a single person is deeply enriching and fulfilling.

And now, eleven years later, I have just poured over those pictures once again. Pictures of my son, just five years old in his kindergarten graduation.Pictures of him playing chess in high school not just with his fellow students but with elderly Jewish men. That enabled him to take first place in the Illinois high school championship. Watching him in the town parade on a beautiful float—that is the stuff of “motherly pride.” Pictures of my precious outside garden and then my inside garden with its 91 plants.  Pictures of my nieces gathered in my living room—sharing the pain of sexual abuse by an older relative. Praying together, finding the strength to overcome that darkness in our lives.

Pictures of my two beloved friends, Alyce and Frank. All those Christmases together with Frank at the piano and the rest of us singing Joy to the World at the top of our lungs. The pets, PJ my cat who always manages to find a lap, and dear Pablo, Frank’s dog who had sugar diabetes (like Frank) and is now in dog heaven.

Tears flow as I see those pictures that, just eleven years ago, were floating in sewer water.  

Thanks to the many friends who worked so tirelessly to help me preserve those memories.

.

Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. She also is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day.

Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

There’s a place on the Bocce court for every age and level of physical ability

Carl is Commissioner of our bocce league and loves to play from his Electric Mobility Vehicle (EMV).

.

By BENJAMIN PRATT
Contributing Columnist

Carl pulls his EMV up to the side of the court. Carl is a double amputee who serves as Commissioner of our Bocce league and loves rolling the balls.

Describing his aim for first-time observers, he says, “Now I’m supposed to put this green ball close to the little white ball that’s blocked by that red ball.” We all encourage him and his face grows serious as he leans over the side of the court—poised oh so carefully.

With his practiced arm, we know that he can do pretty much whatever he sets out to do. And, sure enough, that green ball grazes the red ball, knocking it out of the way, leaving his ball closest to that little white ball called pallino (“the bullet”) in Italian.

This is the last of his team’s four green balls—so his roll is in position to win one for the team.

But, there’s still one red ball to roll!

That’s Dee preparing to roll her ball. I’m standing at the left side of this photo cheering for my teammate.

Dee, 92, steps onto the court. She likes to use both of her hands to roll the ball underhand between her knees—similar to the way ol’ timers sometimes shoot foul shots in basketball. She paces back and forth seeking just the right angle.

Finally, she bends over, rocks back and forth. But she doesn’t roll that ball.

Wait! This roll potentially is for the win!

She rises and takes a moment to seriously studying the situation. Finally, she assumes her delivery position, rolls the ball and both teams gasp! Her ball rolls perfectly down the court and nudges the pallino—and comes to rest just 6 inches away! She has won the third game of the match, giving her team two wins and only one loss.

A good day. A good win.

Losses come in many forms for aging persons—the death of a spouse, the loss of health, mental acuity, bodily functions, old friends, but one thing does not seem to wain—the enjoyment of good competition.

Bocce is a sport accommodating to persons of all ages, skills and abilities and despite physical limitations. Bocce belongs to the boules family. Having developed from games played in the Roman Empire, Bocce evolved into its present form in Italy.

The accessibility of bocce to people of all ages and abilities has helped the sport to spread in recent years. Out of 1,700 residents in our Continuing Care Community, over 250 signed up to play in our league competition. We have three leagues with ten teams per league playing in the spring and the fall. Women and men play with equal and very competitive skills that bring a sense of belonging, companionship and the delight of winning and the disquiet of losing.

And with that, I say:

‘Play Bocce!’

.

.

Care to learn more?

Clicking on this photo will take you to the current “Amazon’s Choice” bocce set, rated at 4.8 stars after nearly 4,700 customer reviews. Want to see other options? Just type “bocce” into the Amazon search bar and you’ll find dozens more.

THERE ARE DOZENS OF BRANDS of Bocce sets available on Amazon and at other retailers nationwide. The currently ranked “Amazon’s Choice” bocce set costs less than $40.

THERE ARE MANY SOURCES FOR BOCCE RULES. Here are two:

Meet Benjamin Pratt

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Based near Washington D.C., the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Pratt is a retired pastoral counselor with 40 years of experience working with men and women facing a wide range of stresses and tragedies. He is a Fellow of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and a retired member of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He writes regularly for ReadTheSpirit online magazine.

His book, A Guide for Caregivers, has helped thousands of families nationwide cope with the wide array of challenges involved as more than 50 million of us serve as unpaid caregivers in the U.S. alone. In 2021, Ben will continue to write about caregiving issues for us.

You can learn more about him, and all of his books, by visiting his Amazon author page.

.

.

Aging Today podcaster Mark Turnbull talks with Rabbi Joseph Krakoff of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network

A Fascinating Interfaith Dialogue about End of Life Issues

Click on the cover of Rabbi Krakoff’s book to visit its Amazon page.

Podcaster Mark Turnbull is a friend of our publishing house and, in this new hour-long podcast, he talks with our author Rabbi Joseph Krakoff, head of the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network.

This is a fascinating conversation because both Turnbull and Krakoff began their careers in ministry with congregations. Turnbull is a Protestant minister who moved from serving congregations to his current focus on issues involving the later stages of life. As they talk in this podcast, Krakoff explains that his career has followed a similar path.

Turnbull asks Krakoff what he finds rewarding in this vocational focus.

The rabbi explains that his work allows him to help men and women at a time in life that many people have never paused to consider. “Dying is a life-cycle event—just like birth, bar or bat mitzvah in Judaism or confirmation in Christianity, or a wedding. The life cycle event of dying needs as much attention as the other life cycle events because of the way it affects the individual and family members and friends so significantly.”

However, it’s sometimes challenging to start that kind of conversation and Turnbull asks the rabbi to talk more about the wide range of responses he encounters.

This can be particularly challenging, Krakoff says, with the “half of our community that is unaffiliated, meaning they don’t have a congregation. … When we do reach out, a lot of times we will hear people say, ‘I don’t want a rabbi. I’m not religious and never was.’ But, then, closer to the end, they do want a rabbi, someone to ask about what Judaism says about what happens when we die. … They want to know about verses of the Bible and our teachings around the end and whether there’s something else out there after we die.”

Please, make time to listen to this inspiring hour-long conversation—and please share this with friends.

 

Trying to survive COVID however we can with pumpkin pie, prayer and all

Millions of Americans are trying to make their way through COVID however we can manage—and, in Lucille Sider’s case, that involved a lot of pumpkin pie. While that idea may make us smile—it certainly gave Lucille a much-needed smile—the truth is that COVID is a deadly predator. Resiliency in the face of COVID takes many forms and does not always guarantee we will survive. (This image shared courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

.

By LUCILLE SIDER

Twelve days ago, I told my friend Barbara, “I am so blessed. I know no one who has had COVID—and certainly no one who has died from it.”

Then, 11 days ago, I learned that Brittany, a 27-year-old friend had died from pneumonia and COVID. And David, age 75, had died from COVID in an absolutely heartbreaking story. Refusing to be vaccinated, David and his wife Rita also avoided medical care. Their children who lived far away begged Rita to get him to an emergency room. They called an emergency van to take him—but Rita refused to let him go. David died that night.

I was reeling. I knew David from long ago and I am very close to his daughter, age 50.

Ten days ago: I learned that I had COVID. I was scheduled for minor surgery and the COVID test was simply the ordinary precaution in such situations.

I was hit with extreme fatigue, sore throat and other symptoms—and panicked. More than the symptoms, I panicked because I am an extrovert who needs lots of contact with other people to maintain my wellbeing.

For three days, however, I slept most of the time—except for the time I spent virtually with my friend Frank, who I have written about in earlier columns. We share morning meditation, which continued to be grounding for me. We read scripture and other sacred readings. We pray for our loved ones and for the world. Giving our worries to God frees us to carry on the work we are called to do.

I told my Facebook friends that I had COVID and they surrounded me with love. They called. They wrote to me. I heard from people I hardly knew. I felt so blessed. So grateful.

Then, I made two pumpkin pies and not just any pumpkin pies. Mennonite pumpkin pies. The pie I grew up with. The Mennonite recipe is lighter compared with the typical, fairly dense pumpkin pies that are so common across the country. My recipe also has a distinctive blend of those spices we all love: ginger, cinnamon and cloves—just enough to truly taste them but not too much to overshadow the pumpkin.

As always, I bought whipped cream for the top of the pie, the kind that comes in the can. I loaded each piece of pie with at least a cup of whipped cream. It was heavenly!

For two and a half days I ate pie for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I know Frank loves this pie and considered giving him a few pieces—but I must admit: I really wanted it all for myself. I justified my decision by speculating that my pie could possibly pass along COVID germs. I later confessed my greed to Frank and promised to make pumpkin pie for him when I am well.

Finally, I regained just enough strength to care for my plants, which I also have written about in earlier columns. And, yes, the giant coleus did survive. My plants bring me such deep joy. When I walk into my living room garden each morning, I am greeted with a multi-colored garden of all different stripes and colors—red, orange, yellow, green, brown and pink. They are beautiful, they are easy to care for and they grow so quickly. If given a good amount of water, fertilizer and sunshine, they just take off and grow right before your eyes!

But COVID is a relentless predator. Frank did get COVID, too—truly terrifying news. Frank has diabetes and recently recovered from brain cancer.

The good news was that Frank had a very light case. He had mainly fatigue so he slept most of the time. We were too tired to cook, so had lots of carry-ins.

On the last day of my isolation I remembered a prayer we had recently read. It gave me hope in those moments that I feared death for myself and for others:

“Lord, you have conquered death.
You have gone down to the depths of Shoel and risen again to life.
Help us to remember as we suffer with you that we will rise with you to a life that never ends.
Amen.”
From Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

 

.

.

Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

 

Lucille Sider Shares a Creative Coleus Christmas with her Community

.

By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

My Christmas Coleus is a centerpiece of Christmas harmony, bursting with red and green.

It’s actually six plants all growing together in a big pot and has become a Christmas Coleus that truly represents my community.

Here’s how this unusual Christmas story unfolded: In the spring of this year, 2021, I drove by St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois and was stunned—truly stunned—by the deep red coleus garden. The garden was almost a half-block long and 6 feet wide. I had never, ever seen a coleus garden so big and so utterly beautiful.

I was smitten!

A week later I took my friend Barbara to that amazing garden. She has a beautiful outside garden and is always on the look-out for new flowers. She was immediately mesmerized. I then carefully instructed her to snip off some coleus slips. Slips are a single strand of the plant. When placed in water for a few weeks, they grow roots. Then all you need is a little pot, a little soil, a little water—and BINGO—you have your own, beloved coleus plant!

A week or two later, I visited my friend Daryce and we sat on her deck, listening to the birds and delighting in the plants. I immediately learned that she, too, loves coleuses and had quite a variety. In fact, she gave me a large plant, over a foot in height. It was more like a small tree with a trunk than a typical coleus plant. The leaves were a vibrant green with dark red stripes. Absolutely gorgeous!

I could not wait to get home, snip some of those long branches, place them in water and watch the tiny roots grow. Before I knew it, I had eighteen coleus plants, nine red ones and nine green ones with glorious red stripes.

When Barbara dropped by I gave her some of the green plants with the striped leaves. She planted three of these and three of the red coleuses in a big pot. That is the origin of The Christmas Coleus.

By mid-September the coleus was almost three feet wide and three feet tall. Of course I posed with it for pictures and immediately became the “The Coleus Queen” on Facebook. In retrospect, Barbara should have posed with me because the beautiful coleus is as much from her TLC as mine.

My friend Barbara with her coleus-packed wagon.

In early October Barbara and I knew we needed to move the plant inside to avoid an early frost. Barbara had just purchased a new wagon—a blue canvas beauty! Four feet long, two feet wide and one foot high. Perfect for transporting our coleus!

On moving day, we carefully lifted the coleus into the wagon and started walking four blocks from her house to mine.

Part of the plant drooped over the side of the wagon, which was truly precarious.

We had lots of questions and stares as people walked around the wagon for it took up two-thirds of the sidewalk. No one had ever seen a coleus this big!!

Finally, I was thrilled to have the coleus in my apartment where I could experiment with how to care for it in the winter months. We placed it in front of the window in my bedroom.

As soon as Barbara left, I found my “sunshine lamp,” which I knew I needed to provide sufficient light for the coleus. This lamp is rectangular, about one foot high, two feet wide. It produces rays that are like the rays of the sun. I have used it when struggling with seasonal depression in the winter months. It helps me get through those long, dark days and I was sure it could help the precious coleus as well.

I was right about that!

Providing light for the coleus has been a long-running experiment. There is no standard guideline. Perhaps this is more intuitive than any other aspect of caring for the coleus. And of course, the amount of light from the sun is always changing as winter approaches. Thus the time with the sunshine lamp is getting longer.

It soon became clear to me that the dark red coleuses needed much more light than the green ones with the red stripes. In fact, the red ones look somewhat faded and have developed some light green lines along the circumference of the leaves. Thus, I carefully rotate the plant so those faded red leaves get maximum light. It has helped considerably.

As we are nearing Christmas, I have established a routine that is clearly working for it has grown over a foot higher and a foot wider than when I brought it to my apartment. Some of the leaves from the red coleus have exploded in size and thus are 7 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Amazing! Beautiful!

Of course I love to show the coleus to friends and neighbors. They always congratulate me for my “green thumb.”

I insist that the secret of growing plants is more about “the pointer finger” than the “green thumb.” Let me explain. About every four days, I reach my hand into the top of the pot touching the soil with my “pointer” finger. If my finger is dry, I water the plant. If it is moist, I wait a day or two. About once a week, I fertilize the coleus using the standard Miracle-Gro fertilizer for indoor or outdoor plants.

At one point, I observed that the branches of the coleus were very brittle and could break easily. I struggled with how to protect them. Finally I bought wooden stakes about five feet high and carefully pushed them deep into the ground. Next, I took green string and tied the brittle branches to the stakes. This has worked very well and so far. as not one branch has broken off.

Then, I had an idea for a Christmas decoration.

I draped red and green tinsel from stake to stake. Later, I added another stake into the middle and placed a Christmas star on top of it. Perfect!

Now, I awaken each day to the beauty of the Christmas Coleus. Seeing bright rays of the sun gently bathing the plant brings a deep peace. Off in the distance is Lake Michigan with its ever-changing colors. Will the water be turquoise, baby blue, dark blue or gray? Such joy!

I get up, make my coffee and sit in the rocking chair just four feet from the coleus. It is the best meditation spot I have ever had! There was so much joy in gathering the red coleus slips with Barbara, receiving the green plant from Daryce, which has exploded into many beautiful plants, and now we have this glorious Christmas beauty.

Sometimes Barbara comes and we delight in the coleus. We remember that first day when we picked red coleus slips from the garden at St Francis Hospital. Some of our friends say we “stole” those slips but we insist that the hospital would have gladly given them to us. After all, it is a hospital of Saint Francis, the who preached to the birds and danced with the animals! And now my statue of St Francis stands close to the coleus, blessing it and sending it love.

Barbara and I chuckle about the four-block trip from her house to mine when we transported the coleus in her beautiful blue wagon. How we apologized to neighbors for taking up most of the width of the sidewalk. We just shake our heads as we remember their amazement at our little procession.

But most of all, Barbara and I cherish the beauty of creation.

We remember the story of creation in the Bible.

We wondering if that “fig” leaf that Adam used to cover himself was perhaps the original coleus!

A Christmas Coleus!

.

Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Lucille Sider inspires readers nationwide with Light Shines in the Darkness, her memoir about spiritual resilience in the aftermath of life-shattering trauma. Now, she is publishing a series of columns about the many ways men and women find themselves confronting trauma every day. Here are some of her earlier columns:

 

 

 

 

Mindy Corporon on Responding to the Oxford Shootings in a Loving Way

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mindy Corporon is a nationally known advocate for the thousands of families affected by tragedies each year—drawing on hard-earned wisdom she has gathered after a terrorist attack struck her family. Now, Mindy’s life’s work has become a multi-faceted effort to share spiritual solace as well as very practical ideas for coping with trauma and loss. Her podcasts and her community-outreach and training programs already have helped men, women and young people nationwide. So, this week, when a 15-year-old gunman unleashed a shooting rampage inside a Michigan high school, Mindy immediately responded with examples of the many practical ways neighbors can respond. (Wikimedia has more background on the Oxford High School incident and its aftermath.)

.

Responding to a horrific tragedy starts with the simplest of daily challenges

By MINDY CORPORON

With deep respect for the lives lost and the lives shattered in the shooting at Oxford High School this week, we pause and ask ourselves: What can we do?

Crying, prayer and sharing your feelings with your family and friends is always a good place to start. From there, there are different actions depending on whether or not you know the victims.

If you know the victims of the tragedy, you can help by gathering together, being present, assisting with the necessities of daily life, such as laundry, grocery shopping and caring for the family pet. Drop off paper products. Organize a long term plan for meals, beyond the initial days following the event. Their grief will leave them needing help with food and day-to-day needs for weeks and perhaps for months down the road.

If you don’t know the victims, but are hurting for humanity, you can send a letter to the victims’ families to the funeral home.

You can send notes to the high school for students and faculty to read when they return.

Make a donation to the high school for the services they may need, to help with the grief and healing.

Plant a tree or have your own candle-lighting for the victims.

It is important to remember the students at Oxford High School when they return to classes in January. Letters, flowers and cards will help the Oxford community as they reassemble and face their new reality.

.

Care to Learn More?

Mindy writes about the legacy of her own family’s trauma after a terrorist attack in Healing a Shattered Soul, which is available from Amazon.

A popular speaker, teacher and writer, Mindy has dedicated her life to encouraging kindness, faith and healing in congregations, companies and communities. Among the programs she has co-founded with this vision are the Faith Always Wins Foundation and Workplace Healing, LLC.

The emphasis on healing, which is right there in the first word of her memoir’s title, is the core of this book’s power to inspire readers and spark fresh engagement in our communities.

Looking for Joy, When Grief Bowls Us Over—Again

By SHAUNA WEIL
Contributing Columnist

Grief provides passages in life that can as easily steal your breath as give you breath.

Either way it exposes your soul in the midst of the tumultuous ways of this world. It brings vulnerability to the surface and that is something we so don’t want to allow ourselves to feel.

Barbara Crumm (then Yunker) with one of her favorite horses in San Antonio, Texas, during World War II.

I am coming close to the first year anniversary of the death of my mother, Barbara Crumm, and grief has bowled me over again. In my experience, I have discovered that most people do not want to talk about grief and all the many things beyond death that cause us to cycle through grief again and again.

We shutter it away; some even lock the shutters.

I say blow them wide open!

Let yourself experience it; let yourself talk about it; let yourself listen with ultimate compassion to those who are going through it. We’re often afraid to share. Perhaps you didn’t share when you grieved. If so, I am sorry you didn’t or couldn’t share. I am sorry if you didn’t find a compassionate listener to hear, really hear, your grief.

I had a very thought-provoking conversation yesterday with someone I really respect. So this morning, with my eyes brimming as I drove to Grand Blanc for something as mundane as a grocery pickup, I thought about my mom who spent her final years living in Grand Blanc. I thought about her breath span on earth. She had some very traumatic things happen in her life. I spent a little bit of time being sad over those hardships she endured that affected who she was her whole life. Then I spent a bit of time trying to be glad that she was free of some of those weights now, even though I keenly feel her absence.

But as surely as I hurt, I also just as surely want to know joy. Oddly, they are not an impossible juxtaposition.

I wanted to think about the joy my mom knows now. As I drove, two memories of mom’s life which she had shared with me came to my mind. Her eyes were an unusual shade of blue, striking, for they held both depth and an intensity. As she aged almost to her 96th year, her smile became even more gentle, lovingly conveying messages without even the need for her to speak. (That’s kind of a joke because we always teased mom about how much she loved to speak.)

Memory One: Mom especially loved her grandfather on her dad’s side of the family. He had a wonderful big car and her grandpa liked to go driving. Even more, Grandpa liked to pick up little Barbara and take her along. She loved to ride along through the Indiana countryside, standing on the wide floorboards so she could look out the windshield. Coming from a family of six children loving  as it was, this was a treat for little Barbara to be the pick of Grandpa for these excursions. Mom could still remember the feel of the car and the freedom she felt in being with Grandpa zooming along; she could also remember the delicious taste of ice cream that always seemed to be part of the journey. (I come by my penchant for ice cream honestly! Genetic, who knew?)

Memory Two: Mom moved to San Antonio during WWII to live with her big sister Helen, who owned and operated Breckinridge Stables right in town near a large park where they often rode. Helen’s husband was at some points gone as he served overseas during the war. Mom learned to ride there and her voice would become different when she spoke about riding horses. Mom joined in some of the Moonlight Rides the stables offered to the many servicemen who came through nearby Fort Sam. She enjoyed riding with friends or her sister. Anytime she rode, her world felt different to her. Even in her 90’s, no longer able to walk, if someone talked about riding or a fear of horses, mom would always say something joyous about riding like, “Oh, don’t be afraid, you can never feel as free as when you are riding a horse!”

I heard these two memories in particular come up many times. I recognize now, that, for my mom, these were two earthly experiences she had that maybe reached what she could possibly conceive divine joy might be like.  Her voice always changed on these two memories. They were important to her and expressed a freedom and joy she might not have been able to always feel in her daily life.

Even if she couldn’t always feel it, she was one to always seek out joy and one to choose it. Well, I am still here on earth with, God willing, miles to go on my spiritual journey before I sleep. But with eyes still brimming, I couldn’t help but whisper a prayer of praise to God for the glimpses of joy God showed my mom here on earth, which she held in her heart for a very long time and praise for the joy she now knows.

I pray today that our grief journeys and our joy journeys intermix as they are likely to do and we are able to realize God in all of it.

God is our most mindful of gifters. He knows the grief journey can’t be done without allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and raw nor without the gift of joy peeping through now and again. I could even see it with eyes full of tears today. I know you can, too, whichever you are: a griever or a gift to a griever.

Walk on whether you are breathing or breathless. God knows your pain and provides your joy. No wonder they are intermixed.

It’s a Goddity.

.

Care to see more?

This column originally was shared through the Devotion Ministry of Goodrich United Methodist Church. At the close of the column, Shauna shared the following video with the comment: Need some company in your walk? Listen to the popular musical number from the movie Carousel, You’ll Never Walk Alone.

.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Shauna Weil, at is, at heart, a giver of care, a musician, an author and a seeker of joy. She and her family own and operate a multi-generational dairy farm and run a summer sweet corn stand in southeast Michigan.